Ancient Theatre Project

This long-established research project concerns the identification and cataloguing of archaeological material relating to the history of the Ancient Theatre. The range of material is wide: it consists of representations of stage scenes, actors in costume, masks and other theatrical equipment in many different media – sculpture, vase painting, terracotta figures, bronzes, mosaics, and gems. The works come from all parts of the Graeco-Roman world, including Britain; they cover a time-span of more than a millennium; they are scattered world-wide in collections and museums; excavation adds annually to their number, which runs into thousands.

The results of the project are published in a series of BICS Supplements on Old and Middle Comedy, New Comedy, and Tragedy and Satyr Play begun by the late T.B.L. Webster and now continued by the Institute’s Associate Fellows – Richard Green (Sydney), William Furley (Heidelberg), and Tyler Jo Smith (Virginia). The most recent volumes are those on New Comedy, published in 1995, which contain more than 3,500 catalogue entries. Material concerning Middle and New Comedy which has come to light since publication will appear in future Bulletins of the Institute of Classical Studies. Work has now begun on the third edition of Monuments Illustrating Tragedy and Satyr Play which is to be extended to include Pantomime.

Photographic archives relating to the Ancient Theatre are held in the Universities of Sydney and Oslo and in the Institute of Classical Studies. The Institute’s collection is housed in the Ancient Theatre Archive Room in the ICS Library. A comprehensive electronic database is being set up, so that the whole catalogue can be available over the internet.

mosaic depicting poet and satyrs from Pompeii (Theatre Archive NM 1)